DETROIT – Hospitals across the country are struggling to cope with burnout among doctors, nurses and other workers already hit by the crowd of patients due to the ongoing surge in delta COVID-19 and now preparing for the aftermath of yet another highly transmitting mutation.
Ohio was the last state to call in the National Guard to help overcrowded medical facilities. Experts in Nebraska have warned that rationed medical care may soon be required at his hospitals. Medical officials in Kansas and Missouri are postponing surgeries, denying transfers, and desperately trying to hire traveling nurses as cases double and triple, an eerie reminder of last year’s holiday season.
“There are no medical school lessons that can prepare you for this level of death,” said Dr. Jacqueline Pflum-Carlson, an emergency medicine specialist at Henry Ford’s health system in Detroit. “The hits just keep going.”
The government said there was a national average of 60,000 hospitalizations in seven days of COVID-19 hospitalizations, well below last winter’s peak but 50% higher than in early November. The situation is more acute in cold climates, where people increasingly congregate inside and new infections accumulate.
New York State said on Friday that just over 21,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, a new high since tests became widely available. The fallout in New York was swift: The Rockettes Christmas show was closed for the season, and some Broadway shows canceled performances due to outbreaks among the actors.
“We are in a situation where we are now facing a very severe delta blowout and we are looking over our shoulder at the impending surge in omicrons,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, of the two COVID-19s. options.
At AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, a hospital near Kansas City, Missouri, Chief Physician Dr. Lisa Hayes said backups sometimes last several days in the emergency department.
“Beds are not a problem. The nurses serve the beds. … And this is all due to the rise in COVID and burnout, ”Hayes said. “Our nurses were burned out.”
Experts associate an increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations with infections among people who have not been vaccinated against coronavirus. The government says 61% of the US population is fully vaccinated.
Dr. Steve Stites, chief physician of the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kansas, said the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” continues to engulf the hospital and its staff.
“There is nowhere to go. Our employees are tired. We won’t have travelers, ”Stites said, referring to the visiting medical staff,“ and the omicron is just around the corner. This is a tornado warning to our community. ”
The Ohio National Guard deployment is one of the largest seen during the pandemic, with over 1,000 people sent to besieged hospitals, especially in the Akron, Canton and Cleveland areas.
As of Friday, 4,723 people in the state have been hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to Gov. Mike DeVin, the number last seen about a year ago. He added that some employees only took short breaks before moving on to the second shift.
Health systems in other countries, which are doing slightly better, are nervously watching the emergence of the omicron variant and preparing for its consequences.
Nebraska officials said hospitals may have to suspend medical services to make room for COVID-19 patients. While the number of cases is down from the state’s peak of the pandemic, it can recover quickly, and the number of beds remains limited due to patients with non-viral illnesses.
“It is likely that the omicron will cause a giant surge, and to be honest, we cannot deal with it right now,” said Dr. Angela Hewlett of Nebraska Medicine in Omaha.
Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles treated just 17 coronavirus patients on Friday, a fraction of the hospital’s worst period. Nurse manager Edgar Ramirez said his colleagues were tired but better prepared if a wave hit.
“The human factor associated with this fear will always be present,” Ramirez said. “I tell our team, ‘We have to discuss this.’ We must express ourselves. ” Otherwise it will be difficult. “
Twin sisters Linda Calderon and 71-year-old Natalie Bally planned to get vaccinated, but postponed it until it was too late. They now run oxygen in the same room at the Providence Holy Cross, their beds only a few feet apart.
“We’ve been saying all the time: ‘we will do it tomorrow.’ But tomorrow never came, ”Calderon said, watching her sister try to breathe. “We really regret not getting the pictures, because if we did, we wouldn’t be that way right now.”
Pflaum-Carlson, a physician at Henry Ford’s Detroit Department of Health, publicly encouraged people to get vaccinated both for their benefit and for those on the front lines. Eighty percent of the roughly 500 COVID-19 patients in five hospitals in the system have not been vaccinated.
“Show a little mercy and think about how awful things are right now,” she said.
AP journalists Eugene Garcia and Jae Hong from Los Angeles, Heather Hollingsworth from Kansas City, Missouri, and Andrew Welch-Huggins from Columbus, Ohio contributed to this report.
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